Although I first met America’s last great rock and roll band when they hit Toronto – literally! – in the Summer of 1977, it took Vera Ramone’s grand new book “Poisoned Heart” to truly bring me back to both her, and my, gabba gabba heydays.
Yes, in those supposedly dark ages before the Internets and/or Pro Tools, it really was possible to change the world with just three chords and a full tank of gas: Over the course of twenty-two years, the Ramones performed two thousand, two hundred and sixty three concerts. I wish I could have been at every one of them.
As we pick up where we left off last Friday, Vera and Dee Dee Ramone have just made it legal, and along with Joey, Johnny, and Marky are headed towards the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the silver screen, AND Phil Spector’s recording studio…..
As you married Dee Dee in September of 1978, the Ramones were just entering what can now be seen as the peak of their initial success. They were recording their classic work, touring North America and Europe on a regular basis, and were about to star in the film “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.” In fact, you joined the band on the road whenever possible during those years, correct?
I basically quit my day job, and we traveled everywhere together.
It’s hard to be on the road without your loved ones, and the rest of the Ramones also brought along their girlfriends, and later wives. They functioned better with their significant others, and could stay out on the road for longer periods of time. It just became a way of life for us.
Then we would return after sometimes two or three months, and it felt strange to be at home. There was NO routine. We saw our families, friends and did this and that, and after a couple of weeks it was like “OK!” and we’d go back out again!
We were young and could do it. We didn’t really know any different.
Were you and Dee Dee able to spend ANY non-Ramone, “down time” whatsoever back in those days?
While we were home we would go shopping to our favorite stores on St. Mark’s Place. Go to our favorite Indian restaurants. Lots of AA meetings. We went to openings of new clubs or private parties at the Ritz, owned by our good friend Neil Cohen. We had fun as much as we could.
To use a cliché, did the devil often make use of idle hands?
Every day was different. There was no set routine or sense of normalcy. Sometimes when we had too much time on our hands, it turned out to be destructive out of shear boredom, and overdoing something that should have been fun to begin with.
Life with Dee Dee was NEVER predictable. It was a rock ‘n’ roll soap opera …before reality shows were popular!
In 1980, the Ramones’ landmark “End Of The Century” album was released. Produced by Phil Spector, it was supposed to help establish the band as part of the rock mainstream. This, sadly, never happened.
I think it was a big disappointment for the whole band. It wasn’t bitterness; just depressing for all of us.
They tried to break out of the underground scene, and they just could never break it to the big time like the others. So, sadly, they just sort of accepted the fact and did what they did best: Play and record new albums.
Now, tell us how Dee Dee Ramone became Dee Dee King, the original Funky Man, and the reactions from both within and outside of the Ramones to this alternative career.
Well, the band didn’t like the idea of a Ramone straying from the band, and there were some things said that Dee Dee didn’t like.
But his passion for all different kinds of music, from the blues to hip hop, was not unusual. He needed a challenge. Playing the same set night after night became boring for him at times. So he needed to try something different, new, and exciting.
It was “Funky Man” that he wrote first, and when Chris Williamson from Profile Records wanted him to record it, the band didn’t want him to use the last name “Ramone” and didn’t want to be associated with rap. It was simply put: “RAMONES DON’T RAP”! So he needed to come up with another last name.
One of the choices was Dee Dee T, and the other was Dee Dee King. We were such huge fans of Stephen King and his work that this was the ultimately the name that was chosen. Dee Dee had just written the song “Pet Sematary” for Stephen’s latest movie, and we both agreed that he was gonna be Dee Dee King and that was that!
Richie Ramone helped mix that song and gave him alot of support during his Dee Dee King days. He liked going to Manhattan and working on new material with Richie. We had a lot a good times together with Richie and his wife Annette Stark.
The song itself wasn’t received very well but this did NOT deter a determined Dee Dee to put a whole album out.
Soon afterwards, Dee Dee officially left the Ramones. However, for many years they continued recording his songs. This is a subject – the Ramones’ songwriting – that I feel is never given proper respect and attention. Would you consider Dee Dee the primary writer in the Ramones? Conventional wisdom is that Joey wrote the band’s more pop-like songs, and Dee Dee the more hard-edged, “candid” material. True?
Absolutely! Joey wrote more heartfelt songs and ballads. Dee Dee could do the hard-edged songs like “Warthog,” and then do something like “Baby Doll.” His range was wide, and depending on his mood resulted in what kind of song he wrote at any particular time.
I still have many demos in possession that have never been recorded. I’ve had them for at least twenty years in a shoe box. All original, on cassettes, which they don’t make anymore.
As the Eighties ended, so did your marriage. Would you consider your parting of ways at all inevitable? A relief, even?
Our parting was not because we fell out of love with each other, but rather due to other issues which we never resolved between us. He made some decisions, and then I had to make mine. Unfortunately for both of us they were in two completely different directions.
We stayed in touch on almost a daily basis for years after the separation, and neither one of us actually filed for divorce till five years later. It just wasn’t going to work for us no matter how hard we tried, and we had to face the reality.
In retrospect, do you feel this parting was a “good” thing for either of you?
I don’t think of it being a “good” thing for either one of us, but sometimes people grow in different directions and you have to do what’s best and move on, even if it’s NOT how you want it or planned it.
It was time for both of us to let go and start a new chapter in both our lives.
We both eventually remarried. I married my Ken, and a year later he married his Barbie! (Barbara).
Was there any animosity at all following the split?
There was no animosity, but he did become bitter towards me after I filed for divorce. I don’t know why. He just couldn’t have his cake and eat it, and I eventually moved to Florida which REALLY ticked him off. That’s when he became bitter, and once on the phone while I was in Florida and he was living at the Chelsea Hotel, he told me bitterly that I abandoned him! This was NOT true, but to him I guess that was how he felt at the time, and we didn’t speak to one another after that.
You never saw Dee Dee again?
I remember seeing him on TV receiving his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame award, and I was SO proud of him. After so many years, they finally received the respect and recognition they worked so hard for.
A couple of months after that I heard the news that he had passed, and I felt that at least he lived long enough to get the award and now his time here was over. It was a VERY sad time for me.
It was he who wrote “Too Tough To Die,” and now he was gone.
Try to describe your life and outlook-in-general now, post-Dee Dee.
My life now is a lot different. Gone is the crazy, wild life style, and I have someone who truly loves me – and never even knew who the Ramones were until he met me!
I have a lovely new house and a dog I rescued from the pound years ago when she was a puppy. She is fifteen-and-a-half years old now, and I see her declining and know she will not be here much longer. But I guess like they say, “all good things come to an end.”
Generally speaking, I have a great life now. But I also feel I had a great life THEN. So, no regrets at all. Ever! I wouldn’t change a thing.
Is there anything – any records you’d like to set straight, as it were – that drove you to write “Poisoned Heart”?
“Poisoned Heart” was written to keep the legacy of Dee Dee Ramone alive. To let his fans know who the REAL Dee Dee was; the person behind the name “Dee Dee Ramone.”
He was a genius and an often troubled soul, but always tried to be the Good Man that he knew he was inside.
Have you any particular points you’d like to make clear in our remembrances of Dee Dee and your life with him?
His fans should remember him and never forget all the wonderful songs he wrote, and keep his memory alive because he wasn’t properly portrayed, and his legacy was missing a big piece.
There will be only ONE Dee Dee Ramone, and even though he may be gone I want him to know that he’s NOT forgotten, and still loved by so many fans, and will be remembered for generations to come.
“Poisoned Heart” by Vera Ramone King, from Phoenix Books, is available now in all the proper places,
and Vera herself can be found right there at
Plus, if you haven’t already, make sure each and every Ramones song – and Dee Dee King’s “Standing In The Spotlight” album while you’re at it – is in your collection. Coz you’re no pal ‘o’ mine if they aren’t.